2018/03/29

BOOKISH REFLECTIONS:
LITERARY PRIZES

The Women's Prize for Fiction longlist was announced earlier this month, and as it is my favorite literary prize to follow, I was super excited, and it got me thinking about literary prizes in general. I know some people really reject the idea of literary prizes all together, some are on the fence and some people love and follow some of them, or all of them. Everyone's got opinions (as they should).

I'm somewhere in the middle; I usually pay attention to the biggest literary prizes and which books make it to what lists. I'm horrible at predicting what will be on there, and when I do I'm almost always wrong, so the lists help me discover new books to read.


I'm more often than not positive towards all kinds of literary prizes, because I see them as a celebration of literature, and I think it offers up a lot of positive things for the author, the publisher and the public. They're also kind of fun to follow along with.

On the other side, I generally find that the bigger literary awards I'm exposed to and the ones I notice the most don't really have a wide array of different types of books when it comes to genres. There's an overwhelming amount of literary fiction and historical fiction. I rarely see foreign or translated books on the lists. Some of the prize's longlisted authors are often overwhelmingly male (and white).

Now, obviously a lot of the prizes have guidelines to follow and a lot of books aren't even eligible, but some years I feel like I just keep seeing the same books everywhere. I feel like they sometimes all fish in the same waters and no one casts a wide enough net. Books completely slip through the cracks, and sometimes all they do is catch the same type of fish.

I'm aware that there are literary prizes that cater to certain genres and are more inclusive than others, but the big ones, the ones most people have heard of and pick up a book because of, a lot of the time feel very narrow. Perhaps a lot of the books fall into the same-ish genres because they're easier to compare? I don't know.


There's no way any literary prize could ever be perfect anyways, because everything is subjective and the judges are all different every year, but I feel like a lot of them could improve quite a lot. I think for those of us who are very into the literary world and exposed to a lot of books, it's easier to find those great books that never win prizes, but I just wish they didn't fly under the radar of everyone else. There's all this great stuff they're missing out on and I wish they weren't (although I suppose all of these things I've been talking about can be said for movies, music and so on as well).

This was sort of a ramble and I'm sure I've missed several key points, but what do you guys think? Do you like and follow literary prizes or not? Does a literary prize winning book make you want to read it? Do they and should they matter? I'd love to know!
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2 comments

  1. I think literary prizes face the same problems the Oscars have been facing for the past years: too male, too white, too mainstream. Just like you said, they really need to diversify not only their choices but maybe also their judges? There are so, so many books out there, how can they all end up focusing on the same releases anyway? xD

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    1. Exactly! And yeah, it's weird how they all seem to end up with the same books when there are so many! xx Alice

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